Dressing For Success?

Rockingham County Students No Fan Of Dress Code Changes

Posted: May 14, 2014

Rockingham County Public Schools is planning to change the division’s dress code policy to include banning leggings, yoga pants and other types of skin-tight pants unless students wear clothing over them that covers to the midthigh. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)

BROADWAY — Proposed dress code policy changes for Rockingham County Public Schools have high school seniors asking the School Board to provide further clarification.

Currently, students are not allowed to have facial piercings — only earrings are allowed. But the new policy prohibits only disruptive or distracting jewelry, which leaves discretion up to teachers and school administrators.

Seniors in government classes from each of the county’s four high schools consulted with their classmates about the potential dress code changes, and reported to the board on Monday night.

One of the biggest concerns expressed by students is that the new language gives too much discretion to teachers and school administrators. Some may be opposed to simple nose studs, while other teachers may be able to look past more flashy piercings. Members of the board agreed, and said they appreciated the students’ feedback.

“I guess we need to be very cognizant of the fact that there are going to be differences of how you view a particular item, and I’ll be honest with you, I’m 75 and it’s hard for me to understand body piercings, of any kind,” said board member Bob May. “I’m struggling, I’ll be honest with you, and that’s why I’m interested in what you students have to say.”

Board member Dan Breeden suggested adding a nonvoting student member to the board in the future to better incorporate student opinions, and other board members agreed.

Many of the students also said they disagreed with proposed restrictions on tight pants. The policy forbids skin-tight leggings, yoga pants and jeggings — leggings made to look like jeans or jeans as skin-tight and stretchy as leggings — unless students wear other clothing over them that extends at least to midthigh.

But students pointed out that skinny jeans are just as tight, even though the proposed dress code does not forbid them. They suggested the board use clothing thickness rather than tightness to determine whether it is appropriate.

Students claimed they have seen teachers enforce the dress code inconsistently, being more lenient with good students and stricter with those who are less well-behaved.

“It depends on the student,” said Broadway High School senior Malia High, 18. “If it’s a good student, they’re usually more lenient and they do [have] preferences [for] certain students, but if a student gets more detentions or gets [into] trouble, they will be harder and they’ll crack down on the dress code more.”

The policy has not been updated since 2007. The recommendations come after a committee received more than 4,000 responses from students, faculty, staff, parents and community members earlier in the school year.

The board did not take a vote on the policy, but did ask the eight student representatives to “vote.” Only three said they would support the policy as is.

The draft policy, if approved, would go into effect at the beginning of the school year. It can be found among other school board documents at rockingham.k12.va.us.

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com

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